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DATE TAKEN: 11/9/97--- Detroit Lions Barry Sanders #20 runs 50 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Washngton Redskins. ORG XMIT: DB836 / H. DARR BEISER

On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI became the first Roman Catholic leader since the 15th century to resign the position.

While no modern-day athletic retirements managed to break a 600-year precedent, there have been plenty over the past several decades that shocked the sports world. Here are ten of them.

10. Bobby Petrino, 2007


Despite having signed a five-year deal in January, Petrino quit as the Atlanta Falcons head coach in December to take the job at Arkansas. The team, playing without a suspended Michael Vick, was 3-10 at the time. Petrino informed players he was leaving by leaving a laminated note on each locker.

9. Jim Brown, 1966


Brown, who had been pursuing movie projects, informed Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell in a July letter from London that he would be announcing his retirement in several days. Brown had completed eight NFL seasons at the time.

8. Urban Meyer, 2010


After a one-day resignation earlier in the year due to health concerns, the Florida coach announced his intention to leave for good in December 2010 to spend more time with his family. That respite didn't even last a year, with Meyer accepting the Ohio State job in November 2011.

7. Robert Smith, 2001


Despite making two Pro Bowls and having the opportunity to sign a big free agent contract, the Minnesota Vikings running back walked away from the game at 28. He also quietly faxed in his retirement announcement to a local paper, letting the team find out his plans in the press.

6. Kirby Puckett, 1996


The future Baseball Hall of Fame center fielder was having a stellar spring training when he woke one March morning without vision in his right eye. After being diagnosed with glaucoma, he was forced to officially retire four months later when it was revealed the condition never would get better.

5. Pat Tillman, 2002


The Arizona Cardinals safety turned down a $3.6 million deal from the team and enlisted in the Army eight months after the Sept. 11 attacks. He would be killed in duty in Afghanistan nearly two years later.

4. Rocky Marciano, 1956


Marciano remains the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated, quitting with a 49-0 record at age 33. While the financial incentive to stay in the game might not have been the same in the 1950s as it would be today, the idea of a great fighter walking away from the ring in his prime seems unheard of in this modern era.

3. Barry Sanders, 1998


The Pro Football Hall of Fame running back had just turned 31 when he faxed a letter announcing his retirement to his hometown newspaper, the Wichita Eagle, in 1999. Despite attempts by the Detroit Lions and other NFL teams to lure him back, Sanders opted to let his 10 seasons as one of the league's greatest running backs stand as his legacy.

2. Michael Jordan, 1993


After winning three consecutive NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan abruptly retired before the start of the 1993 season, stating that the murder of his father that summer had caused a lack of desire to keep playing basketball. Following a stint playing minor-league baseball, Jordan returned to the Bulls in March 1995.

1. Magic Johnson, 1991


The announcement that the Lakers star and three-time MVP was retiring from the NBA after testing HIV-positive was one of the most unexpected occurrences in sports history. The diagnosis never slowed Johnson, who returned to play in the 1992 All-Star Game and Olympics and went on to a successful business career.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: The 10 most shocking resignations in sports

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